Just three days into this year’s Bike Month, a damp May 28th was host to Bike Summit 2009, a day-long conference on cycling policy co-hosted by the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) and the Clean Air Partnership. International and local presenters covered everything from bike parking to economic and health improvements, sharing perspectives and recommendations that could greatly improve our city’s cycling potential. Spacing will revisit and follow up on some of these ideas, perspectives, and words of two-wheeled wisdom, in hopes of continuing this momentum and encouraging Toronto to actually reach some of the best practices presented at the summit.
With Bike Month all wrapped up for another year, it seems only appropriate to tackle to question of how our local government can take the reigns from cycling advocates and bike month organizers by promoting cycling through policy. In addressing this topic, a presenter from the Netherlands articulated four clear steps:
1. Getting a completed bicycle network up and running
As it looks increasingly likely that the strike will drag on and delay the installation of the 600km of bike lanes still needed to finish Toronto’s Bike Network, the 2012 completion date may end up being pushed further back. Unless the City’s new requests for money from Ottawa’s $4 billion economic stimulus currently tagged for road repairs include funding for bike lanes, an unfinished bike network will pose a real obstacle for more sophisticated improvements and infrastructure ideas that are often explored on this blog.
2. Having long, uninterrupted bicycle routes and increasing cycling on residential streets
With the Don Valley and Martin Goodman trail as two of the most obvious examples, long stretches of speedy and separated bike routes are the “backbone of modern cycling networks.” Proposals like the West Toronto Railpath and others like it that efficiently move cyclists into a downtown bike network should be encouraged.
In terms of residential biking, Edmonton’s Parkallen neighbourhood demonstrates one effort by a Canadian municipal government to increase bicycling within residential neighbourhoods through incentives and pilot projects followed by recorded results.
3. Creating ways of easily crossing barriers
More pedestrian and bike-friendly bridges (e.g. Humber Bridge), as well as improving underpasses beneath rail lines for bikes from their often discouraging state (e.g. the high-walled north-south streets passing underneath the Dupont rail corridor)
4. Establishing easily accessible and reliable bicycle parking facilities
See the previous Reaching the Summit post on bicycle parking best practices
Drawing on the experience of cycling advocacy in The Netherlands, research studies can hugely influence public and political support for bike infrastructure. For instance, expanding investigations into road safety (or ‘unsafety,’ as it was termed) that includes not merely accidents, but the anxiety many drivers experience that often limits their mobility and reduces their quality of life.
Also, increased exposure to the oil crisis, escalating gas costs and the enormous strain road infrastructure maintenance and repairs cost the taxpayer (especially in our wintery climate) can also make politicians more inclined to promoting cycling.
New laws reducing road speed and increasing driver liability that have made waves in the Netherlands not only for protecting the safety of cyclists, but for road safety in general could also be tried in Toronto. In 1991, an important law was passed making drivers conducting vehicles in the Netherlands that can kill always liable when collisions occur.
Finally, planning for the future by getting kids to feel comfortable on a bike at an early age. This entails making bicycling and bicycle instruction a larger part of a child’s education, establishing safe school routes for children to use and increasing traffic safety enforcement around schools.
Photo by Steve